Friday, August 29, 2008

Downtown Dallas sees an increase in commercial activity

Downtown Dallas is the largest employment center in North Texas, making up over 20%of the region’s workforce. However, like many urban centers across the country, in the late 80’s the area suffered from economic woes and suburban flight, resulting in vacancy numbers that left much to be desired. However, in the last few years, massive efforts have been underway to reposition Downtown Dallas as a thriving business community. A number of original office buildings have undergone major facelifts, and new developments are being built in an effort to attract new business. The City, along with the private sector is also investing over $100 Million in new park development Downtown, in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars that will be spent on the Trinity River project to add more green space and recreation to the area – all enhancing the quality of life and making the are more attractive for companies and their employees.

The investment is paying off. According to DOWNTOWNDALLAS, more than 40 companies have made the decision to relocate to Downtown Dallas in the last year, including major corporate moves like Tenet Healthcare Corp., AT&T, Comerica, TM Advertising, 7-Eleven and AIG. This represents approximately 6,500 new employees and over 1 million square feet of space. Furthermore, in the last year, Downtown has experienced more than 1.5 million sf of expansions and/or lease renewals including companies who have made the decision to remain in the area like McKool Smith, Thompson & Knight, Haynes & Boone, Corgan, Hunt Consolidated, Greyhound and Fireman’s Fund.

“When we opened our law firm in 1991, most of the offices downtown were filled with banks or other law firms,” says Mike McKool, co-founder of Dallas-based McKool Smith. “But we have seen more and more diverse companies moving downtown, and the varied mix has been a great benefit in revitalizing downtown.”

These companies are citing a number of factors in their moves. Dallas, of course, with its central location and major international airport is certainly attractive to many corporations, particularly those looking to move headquarters. In addition, the economic factors such as cost of gasoline commute times, competitive rental rates and proximity to mass transit make Downtown more attractive than ever. There is also a lifestyle factor involved. Following a national trend of “Young Professional” Gen X and Y’ers seeking a true “live, work, play” environment, urban living is becoming the norm. In turn, companies are following, seeking locations close to where this talented employee pool wishes to reside.

Commercial activity can be seen in many Downtown’s districts, most prominently in Victory Park, Uptown, the Central Business District and the Trinity/Design District. Following is information and updates about a few of the key commercial developments Downtown.

The 45-story Lincoln Plaza first rose over downtown Dallas in December 1984. Twenty-four years later, this distinctive granite building remains one of the city’s premier business addresses. A recent multimillion dollar renovation will ensure that it continues to be an attractive home to successful companies for the next quarter century.

In an ongoing commitment to provide excellent in management, leasing and service to current and future tenants, CB Richard Ellis Investors (advisor to Lincoln Plaza’s owner, The California State Teachers’ Retirement System) has rejuvenated the tenant and guest spaces on the lower three floors of the building.

Renovations began with the building’s exterior and include beautiful new landscaping that blends with the City of Dallas’ streetscape improvements, existing mature trees and unique courtyard water features.

Designed by Corgan Associates, Lincoln Plaza’s lobby has been transformed into a bright, energetic space with an innovative reception area that includes new security and concierge stations. A new ceiling enhances the lightning in the public spaces and custom light elements highlight the lobby’s features and elevators. Wood accents provide warmth to the rich stone floor and walls, and contemporary custom rugs and multiple seating arrangements reflect the building’s enhanced new image.

“Lincoln Plaza is now one of the most unique commercial buildings located in the Dallas CBD, offering spectacular architecture, an unmatched location, superior amenities and strong dedicated ownership,” said W. Blaine Hale, Director of Leasing for CB Richard Ellis.“We believe these renovations are among the reasons companies are choosing to relocate to Lincoln Plaza. The upgrades and improvements were all designed to improve the working experience and provide unique special services and conveniences for our tenants and their guests.”

Lincoln Plaza has recently leased more than 64,000 square feet this year with Watson Wyatt & Company, and Brownile & Braden LLC planning to move into the building early next year.

Texas-based Spire Realty Group – a privately held real estate investment and management company – recently announced that Regency Energy Partners LP will move its headquarters to Bryan Tower, located at 2001 Bryan Street. The move, which is expected to be completed by October, will nearly double Regency’s office space to more than 54,000 square feet with expansion rights for future growth. The new headquarters will house around 90 employees.

Spire Realty Group – also known for its generous support of the arts – is sponsoring a series of Texas-based artists throughout 2008 in order to promote the Dallas Arts District. All exhibits are being held in the lobby of Bryan Tower. The next exhibit – The Texas Sculpture Association Curated Membership Show – will be open to the public from September 8 to 27. Past exhibits have included the “Business of Art”, featuring works by Tobolowsky; and “Scrap Can Be Beautiful”, which showcased sculptures designed by students from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

“Bryan Tower is only blocks from the art, music, dance and theatre that makes up the largest urban art district in the United States,” said Caleb Smith, president and owner of Spire Realty Group, which owns and manages Bryan Tower. “As a building owner and downtown tenant, Spire Realty Group understands the importance of supporting Dallas’ booming art scene. Through our series of arts exhibits at Bryan Tower, we hope to raise more awareness among our tenants and visitors about the variety and quality of the arts available to them downtown.”

Bryan Tower, which is bounded by Bryan, Olive, Federal and Harwood Streets, is conveniently located along the DART rail line.

Jones Lang LaSalle’s leased office property, 1700Pacafic Avenue, has added a new upscale full-service 25,000 square-foot fitness facility called Elevation, which offers state-of-the-art amenities and equipment. The fitness center will also include a new 3,000 square-foot conference room attached for tenants and fitness education classes. Located in Downtown Dallas, the 1.3 million square-foot office building is owned by Berkeley First City, L.P. Jeff Eckert and James Esquivel, Senior Vice President with Jones Lang LaSalle’s Dallas office are leading the leasing efforts and the property.

“With the addition of Elevation, as well as significant capital improvements to the building’s lobby and concourse and a great downtown location, 1700 Pacific will remain on e of Dallas’ most recognized office properties, “ said Eckert.

Added Esquivel, “We are seeking a great deal of activity downtown, and are sure that 1700 Pacific’s new fitness facility will attract high-quality tenant.”

1700 Pacific Avenue is a 49-story, Class A office building containing more than 1.3 Million square feet of rentable space. The building is rectangular in shape, allowing for extraordinary retail and office visibility and frontage. Tenants include Penson Worldwide Inc., Akin Gump Strauss Haver & Feld Law Firm, Neiman Marcus Group and Mary Crowley Medical Research.
Elevation fitness center will be a platform for top certified personal trainers to use their skills in training sessions and signed a contract to work out at the fitness center this year. Elevation’s membership is open to everyone and offered at a discount to tenants.

The Adolpus Tower, a 26-story 182,000 square-foot office building at Main and Akard streets, is undergoing a complete face lift, which includes improvements to both the interior and exterior. LaWayne Schrader, of Henry S Miller’s Corporate Services Division, said renovations to the buildings common areas – including the connector to the hotel - are already underway and are expected to be completed by the fall. Custom spaces will then be created based on new building standard finishes.

According to Schrader, the Adolpus Tower’s ideal location is what prompted plans to update the space. “it’s a great investment for us to renovate when we have such a premier location in the Central Business District,” noted Schrader. The tower is two blocks away from the DART line, is walking distance to a wide variety of shops and restaurant, and will be across the street from the planned downtown park.”

Comerica Bank Tower (formerly Bank One Center and Chase Center) is located at 1717 Main Street in the southeast quadrant of Dallas’ central business district. The 60-story, 1.7 million square-foot tower is at the hub of the Downtown Dallas Underground Walkway System.

Last year, Comerica Bank leased nearly 200,000 square feet – making Dallas its corporate headquarters. The remainder of the building is currently 86 percent occupied, leaving approximately 205,000 square feet of Class AA of the space available.

A Dallas icon since 1985, Bank of America Plaza rises 921 feet, offering 72 stories of classic modern architecture. With signature green lights that define one of the most recognizable big-city skylines, Bank of America Plaza is comprised of over 1.8 million square feet of office space, making it the largest commercial real estate asset in North Texas.

Bank of America Plaza has recently attracted five new office tenants totaling 80,000 square feet. With floor plates of over 28,000 square feet, the building’s unique design provides for 16 corner offices and up to 40 offices on the glass with unobstructed views of the metroplex. The plaza is center to the vortex of activity soon to take place in Downtown Dallas. Construction of the Trinity River Project, and Dallas’ new convention center hotel provides Bank of America Plaza with the excitement and anticipation of a vital, growing Downtown community affording a 24/7 live, work and play environment.

Bank of America Plaza is home to Dallas’ largest down town tenant, Bank of America, and several other large corporations and law firms. A host of amenities make Bank of America Plaza a great place to work for over 3,500 Downtown Dallas employees. The building contains nearly 42,000 square feet of retail conveniences to service its tenants, such as Bank of America, CVS Pharmacy, Strabucks, Tin Star, Subway, and Corporate Care Dry Cleaners. With access to the central business district tunnel system, employees at the Bank of America Plaza also have access to over 70 restaurants and eateries. The Texas Athletic Club, a full-service 47,000 square foot fitness facility, is connected to banks of America Plaza via the underground tunnel. Additionally, the City Club a private dining club located at the top of the tower offers stunning panoramic views of the city. Bank of America Plaza is leased by Transwestern Urban Advisors and is professionally managed by Cushman Wakefield of Texas Inc. The building is kept in the pristine, condition essential to the needs of its sophisticated corporate tenants.

In October 2008, availability of a 285,000 square foot contiguous block of space will enable Bank of America Plaza to provide office space to a larger user that is unparalleled in the Central Business District. Its monumental presence combined with its unique floor plate, amenities base, and location allows corporations to office in the building that defines Dallas.

“As the largest office building owner in Dallas, Younan Properties has long recognized the importance of a strong central business core,” said John R. Cook with Younan Properties. “Due to the ever-inflating cost of fuel, increasing DART rail ridership, competitive rental rates and the addition of exciting new amenities to the area such as the Arts District and the Woodall Rodgers Park, Downtown Dallas is poised for positive growth and absorption in the coming years. I expect to see more companies follow in the footsteps of AIG, Comerica Bank, Temerlin McLain and Tenet Healthcare in the near future as Downtown Dallas becomes increasingly attractive as a corporate relocation hotspot.

In an effort to further build the corporate community, DOWNTOWNDALLAS has recently embarked upon the creation of an Office Recruitment and Retention program in cooperation with the City of Dallas and a task force of private stakeholders. Under the program, a “one-stop-shop” will be created for downtown market information, providing commercial brokers, property owners and managers the necessary tool to recruit business. In addition the group will work its way through meeting with companies who are currently located Downtown, gaining particular insight into today’s environment. DOWNTOWNDALLAS will also be re-launching it’s market data web site, www.downtowndallas.org in September of this year, in invaluable resource for facts, figures and development information.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New and renewed hotels keep visitors Downtown

Back in 1978, three decades before the ghostbar, when Downtown Dallas was a ghost town, when people, businesses, restaurants, theaters, and retail stores were fleeing to the suburbs, John Scovell's Woodbine Development Company completed the Hyatt Regency and Reunion Tower. The 60 sides of reflective glass and the ball on top of the tower have been seen by millions of people around the world during the opening credits of the television show, Dallas, and have come to symbolize Dallas' opulence to the world. In any language, people know Dallas.

"I would like to tell you how smart we were, and that we planned it. We just thought Dallas needed a hotel, and we got the idea of the tower from the Space Needle in Seattle and the Tower of the Americas in San Antonio," says Scovell.

Today, John Scovell, whose investment partner is Ray Hunt, is spending about $45 million to renovate the hotel, the tower and Union Station, and he's fired up about what he likes to call the new urbanism in Dallas.

"The fire is burning Downtown, no doubt about it. I may sound like a cheerleader but people are learning that Downtown is alive and well. "I'm one of those that believes the health of your city depends on its core. If the health of your city depends on its core. If the core is strong, that's the lifeline of the city. The common denominator of great cities is a great downtown."

"People like to be where people are," says Phillip Jones, President and CEO of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, with its Live Large, Think Big campaign.

Jones says, "People are tired of Vegas, tired of Orlando, Chicago has lost its luster. In Texas, we're number one in attracting visitors for the third year in a row. Over the last 5 years, the number of visitors has doubled from about a half million to a million a year, and so far, we are 20% ahead of last year in future bookings." About 2 years ago, there were 2,000 hotel units Downtown. Now there are 4,000 and counting." Not bad for a soft economy with $4 dollar gas and signs of inflation.

The construction crane is once again the official bird of Dallas. Jones counted thirty two of them on the skyline a couple months ago. Trying to re-establish itself as one of the nation's top convention cities, Dallas is building hotels, condos, apartments, restaurants, shops, clubs, grocery stores (The Urban Market), and everything one needs to Live, Work, and Play, as the DOWNTOWNDALLAS slogan encourages.

"Dallas is a world class city that is positioning itself to be at the very top level," says Mayor Tom Leppert. "We're building a Downtown to be proud of exactly at the right time."

One of the projects the mayor is pushing is the Convenction Center Hotel, which has been talked about for 20 years.

Jack Matthews, CEO of Matthews Southwest is developing the 1200 room hotel, which will stand in what is now a parking lot at Lamar and Young Streets. Matthews believes it will be the new central meeting place in Downtown Dallas.

"Our mandate is to bring entertainment and services to the Convention Center, matching power with power to create a focal point, to get people out of their cars, and out walking, exploring the city. We are basically turning a lemon into lemonade. The more we can get people Downtown at night and in the morning, the safer the streets will be. Folks will be able to walk to the new lakes on the Trinity, to the West End, the funky South Side, and the bold new growth of Victory($3 billion investment), and they'll be entertained as they go." That's what Mayor Leppert likes to call "high denisty entertainment."

The Joule, a Luxury Collection Hotel on Main Street, close to Neiman's, calls itself "the first true designer hotel in Dallas," and it is a jewel.

A joule is a physics term, a measurement of work or energy. The Joule's owner, Tim Headington, who owns Headington Oil and Gas, wanted his hotel to reflect the energy that is coming back to downtown Dallas. All the art, photographs and sculpture in the 129 room hotel represents Texas energy production, from the oil derrick-like columns and the giant black iron rotating gears in the lobby, to the simulated solar panels, and wind turbine ceiling fans in the restaurant, Charlie Palmer.

One can rent the elegant, glassed-in Penthouse Suite for $5,000.00 a night. But even the genral public can swim in the 10th floor rooftop pool on weekend nights. The pool hangs eight feet over Main Street, with a full bar, a grille menu from Charlie's, comfortable terraces, cushions, and cabana chairs for lounging, and a great view of Downtown landmarks, including the Pegasus sign.

"This is a modern luxury hotel," says Shirley Dunn Hanks, Director of sales and Marketing. "Not trendy, and not traditional, but high end. A lot of people like the finer things in life in a modern fashion. That's us."

It's perfect for business travelers on an expense account. And, perhaps the biggest compliment of all, local people are coming to stay.

"We've got people coming in from Southlake, Frisco, and Allen to spend the weekend," says Dunn Hanks.

The Stoneleigh Hotel and Spa is undergoing major renovations. So is the Fairmont. The W and its ghostbar have become a Victory Plaza must "see and be seen" hot spot. Sheraton has purchased the Adam's Mark. People are once again putting on the Ritz, as in Ritz-Carlton. The Adolphus, a downtown stalwart is benefiting from the healthy competition.

Ted Hamilton of Hamilton Properties is transforming a 1920's warehouse, complete with concret ceilings and exposed brickwork, into Aloft, which he describes as "a hip, limited service hotel with a lofty feeling," at Young and Griffin Streets, about a block from the Dallas Convention Center, easy walking access to anywhere Downtown.

Hamilton says, "I'm very excited, very bullish about the revitalization of downtown Dallas. There is a synergistic relationship that is breeding life into the city, adding vitality to the streets.'

Downtown is buzzing with retail & entertainment

Those folks who lament, "There's nothing to do in Dallas," haven't gone Downtown, lately. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are buzzing with retail, restaurants, clubs, shows, and theater. Walking the streets is becoming a people watching show. Lights, cameras,action, is this Dallas?

"On some nights, you'd think you're in Times Square," says John Crawford, President and CEO of DOWNTOWNDALLAS, who sounds like a proud papa, when promoting downtown development efforts. "People are walking elbow to elbow. They're out walking their dogs. It's very, very lively,"

He's talking about pockets of urban development, which are rapidly expanding towards one another: the Main Street District around Neiman's at 1618 Main Street, the shops, galleries, and restaurants of Uptown, new boutiques opening in
Victory Park, the world class Arts District, the growing South Side, the West End, Farmer's Market, Deep Ellum, the Design District, and eventually an entirely new development along Industrial Boulevard next to the Trinity River.

"We're creating a Live, Work, and Play environment. People want to enjoy themselves. They're tired of $4 gasoline and sitting on an expressway for two hours. We've turned 180 degrees, from 25 years of suburban flight to Urban walk-ability," Crawford says.

Today, Downtown Dallas offers 150 shops and 250 restaurants. The House of Blues is a premier destination for dining and live music. Pulse, a hip, chic fitness center has opened at Mosaic, a two tower apartment complex that offers ultra urbanism. One Arts Plaza, on the edge of the Dallas Arts District, is home to restaurants like Tei-An, Fedora, Jorge's, Dali and Screen Door. Downtown shops like Crimson in the City and Benji's Collesioni have celebrated second anniversaries.

This competitive market place is welcome news to Shelle Sills, General Manager and Vice President of Neiman Marcus' flagship store, which has just celebrated its 100th anniversary of commitment to Downtown Dallas.

"the more critical mass we have of restaurants, retail and entertainment makes downtown stronger. That's good for Neiman's and good for the city," Sills says. "We encourage new business and look forward to healthy competition. Neiman's is enjoying a very successful year, even in this economic climate. Here at our downtown store, our core customer base never left, and it is growing, with all the young professionals moving Downtown."

Jack Gosnell is a partner with United Commercial Realty, and you'll see his For Lease signs in the windows of Mercantile Place on Main.

"The real key is delivering full block faces to encourage window shopping," says Gosnell, who says he feels like he's been standing on street corners for about 8 years, waving his arms, urging quality businesses to move back Downtown. A full block face means every storefront in the entire block is occupied, and like a mall, there is a mix of lifestyle specialty shops, anchor stores, and restaurants.

"For years, you'd drive down the street from Neiman's and feel like you were in Beirut, with dark, chained store fronts." says Gosnell, who serves on the Downtown Retail Recruitment Committee for DOWNTOWNDALLAS. "We're working to change that. Finally, we're getting the wheels rolling. It works like a daisy chain, one store links to another."

Naturally, we're talking location, location, location.
"We're right next to the new AT&T headquarters and we offer corporate discounts," says Hillgartner. "We're getting guys shopping on their lunch hours from law firms, accounting, insurance, oil and gas, and banking.

The growing Dallas Arts District provides superior entertainment and cultural experiences day and night, from the Myerson Symphony Center, to the world-renowned Nasher Sculpture Center, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Crow Collection of Asian Art. Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert says, when the Winspear Opera House and the Wylie Theatre are completed, the Dallas Arts District will be the finest in the world.

ALT Worldwide Chauffeured services recently relocated their corporate headquarters to the heart of downtown Dallas'. CEO Kevin Hoque, states "With many of our corporate and hotel client's located in downtown, it was only a natural choice to position ourselves readily accessible to our valued clients."

ALT (American Limos & Transportation) is more than just Dallas' leading ground transportation company; it is a global leader of premium luxury hospitality services. Its unique Global Alliance is an assembly of elite ground transportation companies with commitment to rigorous industry standards and safety to provide unparalleled, consistent round-the-clock services worldwide.

ALT is also known as a leader in the industry for its "Green" initiatives. With its recent relocation, ALT will subsidize all associates to take public transportation for their daily commute. ALT not only offers green vehicle choices, but also incentives corporate travelers and its associates to use sustainable products that are environmentally friendly.

These days, Dallas nightlife is the good life, no matter what Willie sings, with more than 60 lounges and bars Downtown, alone. As the good folks at DOWNTOWNDALLAS like to say, "Whether it's catching a great local band at Club Dada, sipping wine at Swirll, toasting cosmos at ghostbar, or getting rowdy with the comedy troop at Ad Libs... we've got it all Downtown!"

DART: Keeping Downtown Dallas on the move

Transit has always been a good barometer of Dallas' economic health, from the post-WWII years when gas-powered buses put electric streetcars out of style today's downtown transit mall and the steady transformation of high-rise office towers into swank lofts and condos.

The 45-mile DART Rail System- together with a modern bus, HOV lane, and commuter rail network- now connects the city center to outlying neighborhoods and suburbs in a way the region really hasn't seen since mid-century. And growing ranks of urban dwellers now have a ready alternative to $4-a-gallon gas right at their doorsteps-and they're taking advantage of it in record numbers.

Increasingly, the ease and economy of riding DART isn't just for the work commute anymore; it's for leisure activities, as well. The blossoming Dallas Arts District, Richardson's Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts, the world-class shops of NorthPark Center, the Dallas Zoo, the quaint and friendly town squares of Plano and Garland, White Rock Lake, the and artsy South Side, and Victory Park's exciting array of music, dining, sports and entertainment venues are all accessible by train. Even downtown Fort Worth is just about an hour away via a connection to the Trinity Railway Express at DART's Union Station.

As DART expands, so do the possibilities. Rail stations have already attracted nearly $7 billion in existing, planned and projected transit-oriented developments up and down the lines. With many more projects on the horizon, the Urban Land Institute recently hailed the Dallas area as the new national leader in the creation of new live-work-play lifestyle alternatives near public transit.

"DART makes so many things available to us," say Som Kitiyamongkol who, with her husband Jose Alfaro, and their three-year-old daughter, moved from suburbia to downtown's Metropolitan mid-rise about a year ago.

"We definitely wanted the urban lifestyle," Alfaro says. "We love being near the museums and restaurants and it's really exciting to see the urban environment taking shape before our eyes."

Concurrent with the projected doubling of downtown's population to 10,000 residents or more over the next few years, DART will be nearly doubling its light rail system with the openings of its Green and Orange lines.

The green Line will extend from Pleasant Grove in southeast Dallas through Fair Park, Deep Ellum and downtown, stretching northwest to Victory Park, Dallas Market Center, Southwestern Medical District, Love Field vicinity, Farmers Branch and Carrollton. The first four stations will open in September 2009, with the rest to follow in late 2010. In 2011, DART will open its Orange line to North Irving's Las Colinas Urban Center on its way to DFW International Airport in 2013.

To accommodate the new lines, DART is in the midst of a Downtown Transit Study to determine the alignment for second rail line, as well as other transit services designed to keep the city center moving in the right direction.

The new Trinity River

Talk about big dreams for Big D. Imagine the Trinity River bottoms as we know them today dramatically changed into an urban lake with three signature bridges designed by the renowned Spanish architect/engineer, Santiago Calatrava, with tree lined promenades, scenic overlooks, trails and ports fields, plus the Trinity Parkway to relieve Canyon congestions. You say, I’ve heard this before. Now, it’s actually happening.

On its website, The Trinity River Corridor Project proclaims that the completed project “will make Dallas the envy of other large cities as it transforms a flood protection solution into an opportunity for community revitalization, economic development and the creation of a world-class greenway.”

Since 1998, when Dallas voters backed the plan, there has been more talk than walk about converting the overlooked, underused, and neglected Trinity River in to the new front porch of Dallas. Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert says it’s time to walk the walk.

“Nothing like this has ever been attempted in the history of Dallas.” Mayor Leppert told me. The mayor wants to aggressively speed up the time line, so that people will begin seeing progress. While he can’t control state and federal agencies, the mayor expects the bulk of the project to be completed within seven years.

“We’re going to be much more aggressive in terms of telling the people what we are doing,” says the mayor. “This is huge for flood control in South Dallas, and for economic development Downtown, in West Dallas, Oak Cliff, and in South Dallas.

John Scovell, President and CEO of Woodbine Developers, who has developed major projects in Dallas since the 1970’s, says the Trinity River Corridor Project provides the biggest opportunity for economic development since the construction of DFW International l Airport. Mayor Leppert told me he agrees with that.

Scovell says, “ It’s monumental. Water is magic. We are transforming Dallas forever.”

Maybe you haven’t seen it yet, but a crane next to the Continental Avenue Bridge on the banks of the Trinity is sinking piers for the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the first of the Calatrava bridges, scheduled for completion in the spring of 2010.

The 20,000 square foot Audubon Center, built on an old landfill site, south of Loop 12 and East of I-45, is taking shape, and is on schedule to open in October. Classrooms there will be full of school children learning about nature. Miles of trails will create access to the heart of the Great Trinity Forest.

Rebecca Dugger, who has been the Director of the Trinity Project for the City of Dallas for nine years, says, “We’re spurring developers to really get excited, because we’re done planning and the dirt is flying. It’s time to believe.”

Dugger says next year will be a busy one, as construction begins on several projects: I-30 bridge, the first the first phase of the Trinity Trials, the standing wave recreation area (creating white water), and the Trinity House Park south of Downtown. At 10,000 acres, Dallas is creating one of the largest urban parks in America.

“You are going to have a great place for recreation, boating, canoeing, kayaking, including white water, meandering streams, natural areas and 15 ball fields. A lake on the West Dallas side will be suitable for rowing competitions,” Dugger says.

On the east side of the levees, Industrial Boulevard, which may get a new name, will also get a face lift. New zoning will encourage mixed-use development. The first floors will be restaurants and retail stores, with condos and townhouses up above, but not so high as to block the view of other buildings.

Just up from Industrial, next to the levees at Oak Lawn on the West side of Stemmons, across from the Infomart and the American Airline Center, the Design District is home to 350 shops., showrooms, and eateries, with galleries, photography studios, and other design-based business. Residential properties like Trinity Lofts are emerging here as well.

“In my opinion, there will be no public project in this decade in any city that can have a more profound effect on changing the lives of the citizen’s of that City, that the Trinity River Project”, said Deborah C. Ryan, partner with Patton Boggs. “It will redefine how we see downtown. It will redefine our leisure time. It will redefine Dallas and it’s place in the country as a “destination”.

Downtown Going Green

Scientists and poets have long described major cities as living, breathing organisms. Only ants live closer together than the people who live downtown. The bigger the population mass, apparently, the more efficient life becomes. People consume less energy and leave a smaller carbon footprint by parking the car and walking. More people, walking faster, encounter more people, and that encourages all kinds of interactive, cultural possibilities. The hectic, often frenetic pace of city life promotes creative and economic exuberance. And, then to stay sane, people like to go to the park to play and relax.

Great cities have great parks, New York’s Central Park, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, and Chicago’s Millennium Park. Downtown Dallas is catching the wave and making a huge commitment to parks and greenspace. After all, a park is a people place, an urban oasis, a place to walk the dog, take a run, ride a bike, meet friends, enjoy nature, play with the kids, and let go of the stress induced during a 100 mile per hour existence. Whenever, I step into a park to recharge my battery, I take a deep breath and say, often out loud, “I’m free.”

“Parks enhance our lives, and they make up a huge portion of what we see changing, and what people are looking for in Downtown Dallas,” says John Crawford, President and CEO of DOWNTOWNDALLAS, an organization with a passion for greenspace.
DOWNTOWNDALLAS has contributed more than a million dollars tohelp renovate Founders Square Park, Cancer Survivors Park, Pegasus Plaza, Pioneer Plaza, Dealey Plaza, and Ferris Plaza, and will contribute close to another million to help fund the construction of Woodall Rodgers Park, Main Street Garden, Belo Garden, and Pacific Plaza. “It’s gratifying to see, and this is just the beginning,” says Crawford.
Construction will soon begin on the innovative Woodall Rodgers Park, an elevated 5.2 acre deck park, spanning the Woodall Rodgers Freeway between Pearl and St. Paul, creating a bridge between the Central Business District, Uptown, and Victory Park. It’ll have deep beams, capable of holding soil and tree roots, with an elaborate maze of pipes and conduits to support a dog park, playgrounds, cafes, gardens, performance stages, statues, and fountains.

Not far away, the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts Performance Park, scheduled for completion in 2009, will be the first public park in the Dallas Arts District, 10 acres of mature trees, great lawns and gardens, a reflecting pool, promenades and walkways. It sounds a little like the National Mall which stretches between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

“Our park system suffered for so many years,” says Paul Dyer, Director of Dallas Park and Recreation. “Finally, we are creating these public/private partnerships. In 2002, the city got $100 million in matching grants from the private sector. In 2006, that amount grew to $342 million. If we want to be a city that speaks to the quality of life, embracing the parks is essential, and we’re doing it.”

By the end of 2009, Main Street Garden, adjacent to the Mercantile Place on Main will feature garden rooms for relaxing, a dog run, toddler play area, an interactive fountain, food and beverage kiosks, and a large lawn for special events.
Brad Davis with Office Equipment Company says, “From large scale projects such as the Trinity Bridges, Woodall Rodgers Deck Park and the Convention Center Hotel to smaller scale projects such as the adaptive reuse of 800 Jackson St. and the Santa Fe Warehouse; there is a sense of excitement and anticipation surrounding Downtown Dallas the likes of which I personally have never experienced.”

Belo Garden will be the third downtown park created by Belo, which first published the Dallas Morning News in 1885. The City of Dallas spent $6.5 million to acquire the land. The Belo Foundation is contributing $5.5 million for design and construction. And, Belo Chairman, Robert Decherd and his wife Maureen are chipping in $1 million of their own money, to convert a parking lot at Main and Griffin into an oasis in the heart of the city.

“We want to make Dallas more inviting, more livable, more enjoyable for residents, workers, and visitors,” says Dan Blizzard, a Senior VP with AH Belo Corp. “We want people to get out of the office, take a DART train downtown with their children and grand children, and get outside and play. You are beginning to feel a very lively, hip, diverse urban energy. People like it, the young professionals and the empty nesters, who are tired of messing with the house and the pool. The parks are redefining the very fabric of Downtown Dallas.”

Downtown’s future begins now

Not too long from now, Dallas residents will look back on this period as a defining point in the City’s history … a moment when downtown Dallas again became an exciting place to live, shop, work and play … the time when Dallas regained its confidence and swagger, and became a global player on the world stage.

The key catalysts for that change are underway right now.

One is the Convention Centre Hotel. In recent years, our city has seen its standing as a major convention destination slip as more and more groups went elsewhere. Time and again, clients have said the reason is the lack of a convention center hotel. Meanwhile, almost every other major competitor has added a convention center hotel. Once far behind Dallas, Houston built a hotel a few years back and has been drawing business away from Dallas ever since. It’s been so successful that Houston is selling its first hotel, and using the proceeds to build a second. This year, the Dallas City Council decided enough was enough and moved forward to purchase the land for a hotel and launch the process to build our own Convention Centre Hotel, which should include a retail restaurant and entertainment development in the overall complex. Already convention bookings have jumped and developers are creating plans for the blocks surrounding the site.

Another major catalyst: the Trinity River Project. Last year, Dallas voters affirmed their commitment to a comprehensive project encompassing flood control, transportation, recreation and economic development opportunities. Already the foundations are being laid for Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. And late this year, the pre-fabricated steel will arrive from Italy and start going up. That 40-story structure designed by Santiago Calatrava will redefine our skyline forever and connect downtown with West Dallas in a way that’s already inspiring economic development on both sides of the Trinity.

And more catalysts are coming into play. Our Arts District will soon be the finest in the nation and an important downtown anchor. When complete, the Winspear Opera House and Wyly Theatre will make the Arts District a who’s-who of the world’s finest architects. And the deck park over the Woodall Rodgers Bridge will reunite downtown and uptown with a magical patch of green.

In the core, even more green. Both Belo Gardens and Main Street Gardens will add trees, fountains and cool places to relax and play. And if all goes as planned, the University of North Texas will open a public law school in the historic Municipal Building.

Victory continues to add to the downtown appeal. Once a brown-field site valued at $20M, it now has a projected base of well over $4B. Dallas’ investment laid the foundation for an exciting retail, residential and commercial sector of the new downtown. With new additions, including the Margot and Ross Perot Science and Nature Center, Victory has become another important anchor to the new Dallas downtown.

With all that has happened and is underway, it’s no wonder that corporate giants like AT&T and Comerica Bank, as well as dozens of other firms have decided to make downtown Dallas their home.

It’s a sign that the city’s core has firmly turned around years of decline, reestablishing downtown Dallas as the economic centerpiece of the North Texas economy.

Downtown residential development promises to transform Dallas into a thriving community

For decades, downtown Dallas was perceived as only a financial center, a business district that rolled up its sidewalks at 5:00 pm. Yet City officials, DOWNTOWNDALLAS and many private property owners in the area knew better - they knew that in order to thrive, downtown would have to become more than just an office park. The center city needed residents - 10,000 of them in the Central Business District to be exact - in order to attract enough retail developments and restaurants to build a stable economy.

So far, the city's aggressive stance seems to be paying off as downtown residential developments flourish. Dozens of historic downtown buildings have been transformed into stylish residences along with new developments that are being built from the ground up. And there is something for everyone's taste with a different style, price point and flare in each of Downtown's thirteen districts - from the 'meat-packing-district' style lofts in the Cedars?South Side neighborhood, to the luxurious condominiums of the Arts District. In fact, today you will find more than 5,000 urban dwellers in the Central Business District, with 30,000 people living throughout all of Downtown. You'll find residents walking their dogs at the foot of urban skyscrapers, strolling to Urban Market for the evening's dinner delights or gathering at one of the local watering holes for a post-work-day happy hour.

Museum Tower, designed by internationally renowned architect Scott Johnson, is a 42-story, luxury residential high-rise located in the true heart of the Dallas Arts District. The structure's unparalleled location and inspiring architecture may well make it the most coveted urban development in downtown Dallas.

The 560-foot-tall masterpiece will offer 122 one, two-and-three-bedroom ultra-luxury condos - at an ultra-luxury price. Situated between the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Meyerson Symphony Center at the foot of the Woodall Rodgers Park, the tower will offer incomparable unobstructed views of the Dallas skyline. The smallest units - 1,500 sf - will run $1.1 million, while the 8,700 sf grand penthouse will command pricing in the $20 million range.

Celebrity Chef Stephan Pyles will consult with buyers on kitchen design and is also designing a resident lounge and outdoor grilling area. The tower's second floor will include a wellness center with spa treatment rooms and state of the art exercise equipment staffed by a wellness professional. Other amenities will include a great lawn leading to an outdoor lap pool, an art gallery, yoga studio, library and on site dog park.

Developer John Sughrue of brook Partners and his partner Lyle Burgin have owned the property for more than 12 years in partnership with developers Dan Boeckman and Greg Greene of Turtle Creek Holdings, Inc., but were waiting for the right project at the right time. "We always hoped to build a significant development," Sughrue said. "We waited for the promise of a world-class arts district neighborhood to become a reality. That day is today."

Once a 1970s office tower, The Metropolitan has undergone $50 million in renovations to give the building an upscale, residential feel. Located at 1200 Main Street, the Metropolitan offers 283 one- two- and three-bedroom-plus-den condos all outfitted with European-style kitchens, wood and bamboo flooring, stone tile bathroom suites and showers with sunken bathtubs, spacious closets and more. The property also offers modern amenities including a six-story parking garage with a pool deck on top, an outdoor terrace and garden, a state of the art fitness center, and a variety of business amenities.

Units range from 700 square feet to more than 2,100 sf and are priced significantly lower than other downtown properties. The Metropolitan's lower price point, combined with the property's close proximity to downtown business, nightlife, and public spaces, have kept it an attractive option for residents wanting to live, work, and play in the same area.

Mercantile Place on Main is a redevelopment of the historically-significant Mercantile Block and the 545-foot Mercantile National Bank Building in downtown Dallas. The multi-million dollar project officially began in August 2005 when Forest City Residential Group and the City of Dallas - with unanimous city council approval - entered into a redevelopment agreement encompassing nine vacant buildings downtown.

The Merc, which is the marketing name for the 31-story Mercantile Bank Building, features 213 distinctive one- and two-bedroom floor plans with penthouse suites available. Connected to the Merc is the 15-story Element, which is lated to open this fall. Styled in classic mid-century modern and updated for the millennium,. The Element offers 156 Eicherler-inspired one- and two-bedroom floor plans with penthouse suites available.

Mindful of the Mercantile Bank Building's architectural value, the Forest City develpment team and the project architect BGO Architects of Dallas, worked closely with the city's historica resurces bard to preserve the building's clock tower and weather spire, its historic facade, and its key structural architectural elements.

"Our refurbishment of the weather spire and clock are symbolic of our approach to revitalizing the entire Mercantile Block," said Jim Truitt, vice president, Forest City Residential Group in Dallas. "Our goal is to protect the historical character while utilizing modern technologies and methods to make the project contemporary and attractive in today's marketplace."

Jefferson at the Arts District, which broke ground earlier this year, will consist of a six-story, residential community located at the northeast corner of Ross Avenue and Routh Street in Dallas.

JPI, one of the nation's largest luxury apartment companies, is developing the six-story, 228-unit, luxury community. The building - which is expected to be delivered in 2010 - will have a modern, multi-color stucco exterior with balconies overlooking the streets.

One of the nation's most significant urban neighborhoods, Victory Park is at the heart of the "new Dallas" - one of the 13 districts in downtown experiencing tremendous growth and offering unprecedented promise for the future. More than $4 billion in new construction is now under development in Victory Park and the area surrounding it.

Currently there are five residential developments in Victory Park - The W Dallas - Victory Residences, The House, and The Terrace, The Cirque and The Vista. A Dallas architectural landmark, the W Dallas-Victory Residences provide an extraordinary level of comfort and convenience. Homeowners can take advantage of fabulous interiors and views, a zero-edge infinity pool on the 16th floor, two state-of-the-art fitness centers, the fresh tastes of Tom Colicchio's Craft Restaurant and the soothing treatments of Bliss Spa. Residences start at $460,900.

Spectrum Properties, Ltd. recently announced the grand opening of 1407 Main, a newly-constructed apartment community that is part of the Third RAil Lofts complex. 1407 is the first new construction residential building in the central business district in more than 40 years.

Located between Main and Elm Streets at Akard, the ultra-modern glass and metal structure consists of 82 one- and two-bedroom loft apartments as well as two large penthouse units on the 17th floor. Apartment sizes range from 751 sf to more than 1,600 sf. 1407 Main was constructed on the site of a 60-year-old, seven-story bank that was destroyed by a fire in the 1980s.

The Rail Lofts also includes the art deco detailed 1414 Elm Street with just 14 units, and the historic Gulf STates Building at 1415 Main Street, with 66 loft apartments - both buildings completely renovated.

Residents of all three buildings in Third Rail Lofts can take advantage of a host of amenities including bicycle and personal storage, a wine tasting room, a 25-seat theater, billiards, a two-lane bowling alley, internet cafe, fully-equipped fitness facility and a wireless rooftop deck. The development also includes a saline pool, hot tub, cabana bar, fire pit, and dog park.

If you want to learn more about Downtown living, DOWNTOWNDALLAS has created a comprehensive resource at their website, www.yourDspot.com

Second high-rise planned in Dallas' downtown Arts District


Developer Billingsley Co. is finalizing plans for its second high-rise in Dallas' downtown Arts District.

Two Arts Plaza will include more office and retail space, condos plus loft-style residences on the lower floors and an urban park.

"The next one will be a little more feminine than the first building but still contemporary and true to the neighborhood," said developer Lucy Billingsley.

Earlier this year, she finished the $150 million, 24-story One Arts Plaza at Routh and Flora streets.

The second building will be just north of One Arts Plaza at Routh and Woodall Rodgers Freeway.

The most eye-catching addition to the project will be a park and retail complex with swooping lawns and landscaping.

At the base of the new high-rise, Billingsley Co. plans to construct a five-story building with loft residences overlooking the park.

Two Arts Plaza was designed by architect Morrison Seifert Murphy, which also did the first tower.

A marketing center is expected to open in October to seek residents and office tenants for the new tower.

"The whole aim is to get a lead office tenant and let it roll," Ms. Billingsley said. "We'll take the risk and build the condos.

"We are not dreaming with this – we are just trying to get a deal done."

Construction is to begin next year.

The initial building kicked off the Arts District building boom and is now almost fully leased to office tenants including 7-Eleven Inc. and law firm Thompson Knight. And all the lower-level retail space has been rented.

More than two-thirds of the condos at the top of the tower have been sold.

By Steve Brown

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Three-Year Loan Clears for $200M MXD


DALLAS-With the hole now dug, Gables Residential has its construction capital in hand to advance work on its 21-story residential tower for the $200-million 1717 McKinney mixed use. The co-developer of the Uptown site has secured a three-year, floating rate loan from Wachovia and Compass banks.
Gables and Dallas-based Granite Properties have been prepping the 2.2-acre site at 1717 McKinney Ave since April. Gables' plan calls for 292 rental units on 20 floors atop 14,000 sf of retail while Granite's stake will be a 361,524-sf, 19-story office building. The towers, with LEED certification as part of the plan, will be linked by a six-level parking garage and shared amenity deck. The developers are eyeing delivery in April, possibly May, 2010.

David Reece, senior vice president of finance and capital markets for the Atlanta-based Gables, tells GlobeSt.com that Charlotte, NC-based Wachovia is the lead lender, with Birmingham, AL-headquartered Compass Bank in a participating role. "Most banks today don't want to keep more than $30 million on their books," he explains about the motivation for the split. Teams in Atlanta and Houston for Wachovia and Compass, respectively, arranged the financing.

Reece says the financing package, which is Libor-based and has "a couple" extension options, took "three or four months" to pull together. "It took a little bit longer because we had to participate it," he says, adding the shared amenity deck also complicated the deal-making process. Wachovia was seated first and then he brought Compass Bank to the table.
"Both Wachovia and Compass are familiar with the market and know the location," Reece says. "They recognize the location is a very good one." The two towers will sit at the kissing point of McKinney Avenue, Cedar Springs Road and North Akard Street.

Gables, like others, still had to battle the capital markets' turmoil to win financing despite its financial muscle. "Generally, it was more difficult given the constraints of the capital markets," Reece says. "We had other loans from both banks so it was a good fit. It wasn't much longer than normal."

Gables' tower will have 181 one-bedroom units, averaging 920 sf; 105 two-bedroom units, averaging 1,370 sf; and six three-bedroom units, averaging 2,500 sf. Because it's so early in the development, the projected rents have yet to be set. The amenity deck will boast a 4,000-sf fitness center and outdoor pool.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Apartment builder arranges financing for Uptown Dallas tower

Apartment builder Gables Residential said Tuesday that it has arranged construction financing for its 292-unit residential tower going up in Dallas’ Uptown district.

The Park Seventeen building is part of a $200 million residential, office and retail development being built with Granite Properties.

Gables is doing the residential portion of the project at Akard Street and McKinney Avenue.

“Even in a challenging credit market, we’ve been able to obtain financing for development projects in our core markets,” David Reece, Gables senior vice president said in a statement.

“We are benefitting from the reputation we’ve cultivated based on our financial strength, ability to develop high-quality projects in excellent locations, and strong relationships with our lenders, including Wachovia Bank and Compass Bank for this project.”

The Park Seventeen project includes 320,000 square-feet of residential space, 14,000 square-feet of retail space and 375,000 square-feet of offices.

By Steve Brown

Monday, August 25, 2008

Phil Romano, JD Miller plan Dragon Street gallery


Phil Romano has spent decades building a multibillion-dollar restaurant empire.

He’s the founder of Fuddrucker’s, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Cozymel’s and EatZi’s Market & Bakery, among other successful ventures. But the CEO is entering what he hopes will be his “most fun career.”

Romano has teamed with Dallas-based artist JD Miller to open the Samuel Lynne Galleries in mid-September. The 11,000-square-foot gallery at 1105 Dragon St. will replace Miller’s existing Reflection Fine Art Gallery in Uptown, and herald the continuing explosion of Dragon Street as the newest Dallas arts mecca.

“This is the gallery that’s going to make Dallas famous,” Romano boldly said as he walked through the dust-filled rehabbed warehouse space that was built in the early 1950s.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Downtown Dallas Lures Firms with Transit, Residences, Vibrancy


During the first half of 2008, downtown Dallas had more office leasing than all of the suburban areas combined.

The jump in net office leasing - almost 400,000 square feet so far – represents quite a turnaround for a market that for years suffered losses of business to the suburbs.
But after billions of dollars in private- and public-sector investment, central business district proponents are ready to proclaim that downtown Dallas has turned the corner.

"I can't remember a time since the early 1980s that we had a bigger year for downtown Dallas," said John Crawford, president and chief executive of DowntownDallas, the central business district economic development organization. "And back then, it was purely a commercial district – very one-dimensional.

"Today, we have new commercial, residential, retail, entertainment and big cultural components."

Indeed, it is that diversity that is driving downtown's renewal.

From loft apartments on Main Street to the new opera hall in the Arts District, the center city is enjoying the biggest boom in two decades.

At the same time, a renewed interest in urbanism and greater emphasis on public transit are feeding into the downtown area's resurgence.

"Downtown is the one part of town everyone can get to on public transit," said Jon Altschuler, Stream Realty Partners president and partner. "It's amazing to look at the momentum that's being created downtown and the relocations."

During the last year, relocating companies have added almost 6,000 workers downtown and gobbled up more than 1 million square feet of empty office space.

The recent downtown moves include two of the largest companies ever to move to the Dallas area – AT&T's 700-employee corporate headquarters, moving from San Antonio, and last year's move by Comerica from Detroit with more than 200 workers.

Along with those moves from outside the area, local firms have recently transferred offices from the suburbs to Dallas' city center. Among them: Tenet Healthcare, 7-Eleven, American International Group and TM Advertising.

"There is definitely a pendulum swing here," said Phil Puckett, the CB Richard Ellis executive vice president who represented Tenet in its search for office space.

Downtown's position as the hub of regional rail traffic is in big part driving the prosperity, Mr. Puckett said.

"Never before have we had gasoline prices so high, and that's having a big impact," he said. "With the central business district being rich in DART rail and the added line going to D/FW Airport, it is a major decision factor" by companies considering a move.

The growth of downtown's housing market also has been key to bringing corporate residents to the city's core.

"In 1996, we had just 200 people living in one building, the Manor House," Mr. Crawford said.

Since then, developers have boosted the central business district's residential base to more than 3,500 units.

More than 5,000 people now live inside the downtown freeway loop.

The boom in residential building has made it easier to attract workers who want to live nearby.

And more projects are in the works.


Long-term investment

JPI, the Irving-based builder that is one of the country's largest apartment developers, is finishing up one project in downtown's West End and has started another in the Arts District.

Together the projects represent more than $80 million in investment, said JPI's senior vice president, Brad Taylor.

"We have made a pretty big investment in Dallas and have tried to pick specific neighborhoods that we thought were good long-term investments," Mr. Taylor said. "We are a believer in the urban core and think it's the place to be for the next several years."

Unlike some suburban locations where competing developers can set up shop on almost every corner, the high cost of land downtown and greater project densities reduce the number of projects.

"That means the urban market, we feel, is less likely to get overbuilt," Mr. Taylor said.

Cleveland-based developer Forest City Enterprise is finishing work on the first phase of its Mercantile Place apartment project on Main Street – a redevelopment more than four years in the making.

The landmark Mercantile National Bank tower has been converted into 225 apartments.

The 31-story historic skyscraper is 30 percent leased, according to project manager Jim Truitt.

Mr. Truitt said leasing has gone a little slower than expected.

"Due to the economy, we are still under construction and our amenity space does not open until the fall."

Next door, Forest City is working on a new 150-unit building that will open late this year.

Mr. Truitt is optimistic because of the recent jump in office leasing downtown, "a reversal of a long trend of companies moving to the suburbs."


Staying power

Hamilton Properties, which is the largest loft apartment developer in Dallas, is pleased with the response to its latest project, the Mosaic building on Bryan Street.

"We're 72 percent leased, and most of our inexpensive units are all taken," said Ted Hamilton.

"We are hitting our projections."

More important, the completion of several loft apartment buildings hasn't cut into occupancy at the older properties, Mr. Hamilton said.

Developer Lucy Billingsley has leased most of the office space in her mixed-use One Arts Plaza building on Flora Street.

"I have about 10,000 square feet of office space available," Ms. Billingsley said. "The rest is gone. The retail is all gone."

Billingsley Co. is ready to start work on a second office, retail and condo building.

"We've got to get a lead tenant and we are ready," she said. "It's so fulfilling to see people living in our project, working there and dining there."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Humphreys' e-Urban Plan Ready for $100M Debut


DALLAS-Two unrelated multifamily projects will introduce the first e-Urban designs to Dallas/Fort Worth, home of the award-winning architect who masterminded the trend-setting plan. The pair of bookends for a five-mile stretch of Greenville Avenue will cost nearly $100 million to bring out of the ground.

Kaplan Acquisitions LLC of Houston is completing site work on a 13-acre tract to develop the 350-unit District @ Greenville Apartments at 11911 Greenville Ave. To the south, Dallas-based Prescott Realty Group is readying its 3.5-acre tract at the corner of Greenville and Yale Boulevard, where it will build a trio of connected five-story buildings with 412 units on four upper floors and 18,000 sf of street-level retail. Mark Humphreys of Dallas-based Humphreys & Partners Architects LP tells GlobeSt.com that the proprietary e-Urban design will result in Kaplan's project being 86% more efficient than a traditional multifamily development would have been on the infill site while Prescott's mixed-use will be about 85%.

Kaplan's District @ Greenville will have five residential buildings and one clubhouse, all surface parking. The mix is 45% one-bedroom units and the balance as two bedrooms, with 1,000 sf as the average of the floor plans. Delivery is planned for fall 2009.
Prescott's project, which has yet to be named, is an e-Urban podium design, one of 10copyrighted variations that the Humphreys' team has worked up since mid-2007 when the specialty line-up hit the market. Fifty-one percent of Prescott's units will be one-bedrooms and the balance is two bedrooms, with their average coming in at 776 sf. The podium design has a 507-space parking garage for residents, visitors and shoppers. The project's completion is eyed for spring 2010.

Since the father of the "Big House" design rolled out the e-Urban to the marketplace, roughly 50 projects have been started in the US, according to Humphreys, who is awaiting delivery of the first born. The high-efficiency building design replaces long corridors with shorter ones and places elevators or interior steps at all four corners for access to all levels.

The Humphreys team has added an e-Urban student-housing design, one of which is underway near Baylor University in Waco, TX and another is in the planning stages near Texas Tech in Lubbock. Humphreys confides that a seniors' housing version is on the drawing board in the firm's Las Vegas office and a hotel version is working through the R&D pipeline in Dallas.

"The original version has morphed. It's been adapted to different needs and different locations," Humphreys explains. "I'm not sure that since our Big House design [$5 billion of developments since 2003] have we had as much interest in a proprietary design as the e-Urban."

Humphreys says the "green" factor is wrapped into the space efficiency ratio because it requires less building materials and has a higher impact on non-revenue producing items. The e-Urban efficiency ratio ranges from 85% to 87% while traditional development is 65%. "That's why we are getting so many calls and have so many projects going on. It's cheaper to build," he says. "We recognized construction costs had way outpaced rental increases on high-density wood-frame projects."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

1700 Pacific to bring fitness center to downtown Dallas

Office tenants at 1700 Pacific Avenue, a 49-story, Class A office building in downtown Dallas, will soon have access to an upscale, 25,000-square-foot fitness center called “Elevation.”

Chicago-based commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE: JLL), which handles leasing of the building for owner Berkeley First City L.P., says the new center includes a 3,000-square foot conference room for fitness classes, as well as state-of-the-art fitness equipment.

Fitness memberships are open to the public, with special discount rates available to tenants at 1700 Pacific. The Dallas Mavericks Dancers have already signed a contract to work out at the fitness center during the coming year.

Situated in the core of downtown Dallas, 1700 Pacific Avenue is a 1.3 million square-foot office building.

Monday, August 18, 2008

New office tower planned in Dallas' Park Lane project


A big office lease in Dallas' Park Lane project on North Central Expressway has developers pushing ahead with plans for a new office tower.

Developer Harvest Partners – which is building the 33.5-acre mixed-use project across from NorthPark Center mall – just signed the major office lease with Kosmos Energy.

Because of demand for office space in the project already under construction, the developer is now pushing ahead with plans to start the new office building.

Dallas-based Kosmos Energy, an international oil exploration and production company, will take 50,000 square feet in the first phase of the Park Lane development, which includes retail, residential and entertainment space.

"This is an ideal site for our company because it offers employees a centrally located space in an all-inclusive setting," said James Musselman, Kosmos Energy's chairman and chief executive.

Dallas real estate broker Peloton Real Estate Partners negotiated the deal.

"This lease kicks off the newly built office portion of this mixed-use development," said Peloton partner T.D. Briggs.

"And it takes us one step closer to our second phase – a 20-story, 430,000-square-foot office tower to be built at the hard corner of Park Lane and North Central Expressway," he said.

The office building would fill one of the last large development sites in the Park Lane project.

The space that Kosmos Energy rented is part of 100,000 square feet of offices located on two floors above the project's interior retail street.

"We already have prospects for the balance of that space," Mr. Briggs said. "We are talking to several large tenants that are in the market."

The $750 million Park Lane project will open early next year with retail tenants including Whole Foods Market, Dick's Sporting Goods and Nordstrom Rack.

There will also be a 250-room Valencia Hotel and Sports Club/LA fitness center.

Dallas Owners Lining Up to Woo Winstead's HQ

DALLAS-With brokers panting on the sidelines, top-ranked law firm Winstead is going shopping for a new headquarters office after spending nearly three decades in the same Downtown high rise. The request for proposals will hit the streets in four to six weeks.

The search will probe all options: staying put, existing high rises and to-be-built towers. The constants are location--Downtown or Uptown--and space efficiency for the 293-member team, boasting 140 attorneys, in Dallas, one of seven offices in the state. The 198,000-sf office in Renaissance Tower at 1201 Elm St. spans floors 45, 46, 53, 54, 55 and 56, the class A building's penthouse. The current 10-year lease expires in 2012.

Leading the search is the CB Richard Ellis team of executive vice president Phil Puckett, senior vice president Chris Hermann, senior associate Michelle Donaldson and sales assistant Harlan Davis. The team was up against Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc. and Jones Lang LaSalle in the best and final.

Puckett tells GlobeSt.com that space and market analyses will be done in few weeks, allowing the RFP to go out the door and set the stage for a best and final by mid-2009 "at the latest." To plant the firm in a new building, he says the deal must get into the market. "2012 is driving our schedule," he emphasizes. "For a new building, that's right on target. The timeline we're on is very important if we're going to look at new buildings."

In most cases, occupants of older spaces can glean 10% to 20% efficiencies when planning starts, according to Puckett. Given the rental rate difference in the past decade, right sizing can translate to considerable savings. "If you can right size and get efficiencies, it can offset a high rental rate cost," Puckett says. "That's what we're seeing in the law firm moves to Uptown. They're shedding a lot of space."

Puckett says it's important to move quickly so Winstead has plenty of choices, particularly if it wants new space. He estimates that Uptown's 1.9 million sf of under-construction office buildings already are 63% preleased.

Winstead is one of the largest law firms in Texas, with 300 attorneys and a 330-member support staff statewide. Image, employee retention and bottom-line savings are underwriting the shopping orders in Dallas, according to a CBRE press release about its newest client.

The battle to keep the Dallas office is sure to get dicey as its building owner, New York City-based Moinian Group, dons boxing gloves to duke it out to hang onto the powerhouse tenant. "The market will be very aggressive. The market talks so everyone is aware of this coming up," Puckett says, hinting that there's already been knocks on his door. "It's going to be front and center and we're proud to be part of it."

Monday, August 11, 2008

58,915-SF Foreclosure Goes to Local Investor


DALLAS-The Neil Felder Group has won Citibank's nod to take over a 58,915-sf flex office building in the East Brookhollow submarket in a value-add play. The seller had foreclosed on the 40%-leased asset, bringing it to market for $1.4 million.
Built in 1984 on four acres, the building at 1261-1331 Record Crossing Rd. is situated within blocks of Parkland Memorial Hospital and close to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Neil Felder of Dallas was up against three other local bidders, taking the deal across the finish line in a 30-day due diligence and 15-day close, Steve Wolff, a director in the Dallas capital markets group for Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc. tells GlobeSt.com. "It went pretty smooth," he says.

The broker says the asset's occupancy never recovered from the exit of UT Southwestern's back-office operation to its main campus at least one year ago. The space was gutted in a make-ready move, but a backfill never materialized.

"Due to the fact it was foreclosed, we were able to aggressively market it," says Wolff, who teamed with JLL managing director Larry McCorkle to find a buyer. Wolff says the competitors all surfaced after one week of marketing, with Felder banking the win in an all-cash close.
Wolff says the New York City-based seller's motive was to "get it off its books." At closing, Wolff says there were five tenants, some in place more than a decade, and no large leases coming due in the near term. But, some upgrades are in order. "I believe there's a lot of upside to this property," he emphasizes.

By Connie Gore

Downtown Dallas Ramps Up Retail Revival

Five years ago, retail broker Jack Gosnell couldn't get prospective retail or restaurant tenants to return calls about space in downtown Dallas, let alone get in the car to go and see the space.

Now he's downtown about 15 times a week, showing prospects available space, and the retailers are on a tight schedule, their dance cards full with meetings with other commercial real estate brokers.

"It's not like they're signing leases right and left," says longtime urban core retail specialist Gosnell, or United Commercial Realty. "But they are downtown looking."

The heightened interest stems from several factors, including the increasing number of downtown residents and a number of high-profile office relocations to the area, including the corporate headquarters of Comerica Inc. and 7-Eleven Inc.

It all shows the continuing importance of critical mass, with enhanced retail opportunities coming from growth on the residential and office side, said John F. Crawford, president and CEO of DowntownDallas, the business association that supports downtown improvement.

Which means the timing is right to move ahead on efforts to enhance downtown's burgeoning retail presence. It's a two-pronged effort.

First, Karen Katz, president and CEO of Neiman Marcus Group Inc., and Shelle Sills, downtown store general manager, will reach out to retailing contacts, sharing the success story of the 100-year-old store, where sales are up 7% over last year.

"The downtown dallas store has outperformed virtually all of the other stores," said Sills.

"We know the strength of our customer base and who shops in this market," Sills said, and they will share that information with retailers targeting affluent customers.

Second, DowntownDallas will function as a marketing and leasing partner to the City of Dallas, using city funds to hire a retail coordinator to focus on retaining retailers now operating in downtown and reaching out to new retailer prospects. That person could be hired within 60 days.

Twin towers on tap for Uptown

Developers plan to start construction early next year on a $400 million mixed-use project combining office, hotel, apartment, condominium and retail space in a two-tower development in Uptown.

The 1 million-square-foot project, called Akard Place, will be built southeast of American Airlines Center, in the block bounded by Cedar Springs Road and Akard, Ashland and Field streets. The site is also within walking distance of Victory Park, the Ritz-Carlton, the Crescent and the planned Woodall Rodgers Park.

Plans call for two 28-story towers with a mix of hotel, residential and office space built on a retail base.

Construction on the first phase will start in the spring and take about two years to complete, said Bart Lowen, vice president of development for Kansas City, Mo.-based RED Development, which is developing the project. RED Development specializes in projects that combine retail with residential, office and hotels.

by Bill Hethcock

West End Station complex opens this month

It's been more than a decade since the first light-rail trains started running through downtown Dallas.

But the West End Station won't open until late this month.

This "station" at Lamar Street and Ross Avenue is bringing 146 high-end apartments and ground-floor retail space to the West End entertainment district. The rental community sits next to DART's busy commuter rail stop.

Besides providing new digs for transit-oriented urban dwellers, the apartment community and some other things in the works will give the neighborhood a shot in the arm, downtown boosters and West End property owners hope.

"Having those new apartment renters move in will be a big plus for the area," said John Crawford, president and CEO of DowntownDallas, the business and economic development group. "That will help it again become a booming area.

"All of the pieces are in place in the West End."

Along with the new residential space, a Georgia-based educational organization – the Savannah College of Art and Design – is considering the vacant West End Marketplace on Market Street and an adjoining office building for the site of a downtown Dallas campus.

"The impact of that decision is definitely huge, relating to the West End and all of downtown," Mr. Crawford said. "Just that one move could be pivotal in revitalizing the area."

The college is expected to decide on the deal later this year.

Regardless of what happens with the school, increased emphasis on mass transit and renewed interest in the center city are refocusing attention on the West End.

The district of restored early 20th-century commercial buildings on downtown's northwest corner is popular with tourists and convention visitors but has been less of a draw with locals.

Even so, with more than a dozen restaurants and watering holes, office and retail space, the West End has been one of the liveliest sectors of downtown for years. It was one of the first areas of the central business district to be revitalized, starting in the 1970s.

But with the construction of the nearby Victory complex and addition of restaurant and retail space on Main Street, there's been concern about the prospects for the West End.

New developments that bring additional residents and workers are no doubt welcome.

"Our West End Station project just opened the leasing center last week," said Brad Taylor, developer JPI's senior vice president and regional manager. "However, we won't have any units available until Aug. 20, so we don't have anything to show yet."

JPI also owns the 3-year-old 1000 Ross apartment and retail building just across the street from the West End Station. Apartments in the complex are rented, but interest in the ground-floor shops has lagged.

"Our retail activity is slow, but we are hopeful that once we get some residential occupancy we will have more retail interest," Mr. Taylor said.

The biggest block of empty building space in the neighborhood is in the West End Marketplace – a 240,000-square-foot retail, restaurant and cinema building that's been closed since 2006.

Building owner Ecom Real Estate has been marketing the property to potential tenants.

"We continue to believe the West End Marketplace is a very good single-tenant building," said Ecom's Bill Nabors, who is talking to office tenants about the property. Mr. Nabors wouldn't comment about discussions with the Savannah school.

Ecom also owns several other buildings in the West End.

"We have seen a little uptick in our restaurant and retailers' sales down there," Mr. Nabors said. "This year, I've done over 20,000 square feet of net leasing down there."

He scoffs at the notion that the West End has been hurt by construction of the huge Victory development just to the north.

"In the short term, it did cause us some pain, and we lost a couple of tenants," Mr. Nabors said. "But in the long term, it's fabulous.

"Someone builds $3.5 billion of stuff across the street from you – come on, why wouldn't that be good?"

Another major West End property owner – Dallas real estate investor Edward "Bubba" Tomlinson – recently purchased more land in the district and has landed a new restaurant tenant for his Dallas Alley building at McKinney Avenue and Lamar Street.

"It appears to me that the area has now developed some synergy," Mr. Tomlinson said.

He's optimistic that a new office high-rise and another condo tower opening later this year at Victory will bring more customers to that corner of downtown.

"We were always hopeful that more people would start looking at the West End," Mr. Tomlinson said. "Hopefully, that will occur."

By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tenet Healthcare moving to downtown Dallas' Fountain Place

High gasoline prices and a revitalized downtown have lured Tenet Healthcare Corp. to downtown Dallas from its current offices in the north suburbs.

About 500 Tenet employees will make the move from north of LBJ Freeway to Fountain Place by the end of next year.

Tenet president and chief executive Trevor Fetter credits the DART rail system and the appeal of a more urban location for his decision to shift the company's head office to the Ross Avenue skyscraper.

"We looked from downtown Dallas as far north as Plano," Mr. Fetter said Friday. "I thought downtown had so much to offer our headquarters employees."

The hospital operator's home office moved from California to Dallas in 2004.

But since then, both commuting costs and downtown Dallas have seen big changes. As the hub of the region's public transportation system, the central business district is benefiting from a greater reliance on mass transit.

"People are feeling the pinch of gas prices," Mr. Fetter said. "And more than anything else, it's the resurgence taking place downtown."

Years of public and private sector investment have brought thousands of new residences, retail space and cultural attractions to a central business district that languished during much of the 1990s.

That's now paying off with renewed business activity.

"There are 40 companies that represent more than 1 million square feet of office space that have moved downtown in the last year," said John Crawford, CEO of the DowntownDallas organization.

Those moves have added almost 6,000 jobs.

"Downtown is on a roll," Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said at an announcement of Tenet's big deal. "We are no longer talking about hopes and dreams.

"What we are talking about is a reality."

Tenet will lease about 165,000 square feet on five floors of the green glass Fountain Place tower.

With the latest lease, the building is about 80 percent rented.

"We have done 200,000 square feet of new leases in the building in the last six months," said Mike Lewis of Crescent Real Estate Equities, which owns Fountain Place. "There is a lot going on downtown, and more is coming."

Real estate broker CB Richard Ellis represented Tenet as it looked at potential relocation sites during the past year.

"We found downtown Dallas to be a very attractive option, as have other recent tenants relocating to downtown such as Comerica, AIG and AT&T," said CB Richard Ellis executive vice president Phil Puckett.

Other recent downtown moves have been made by 7-Eleven Inc. and TM Advertising.

"All of that is a major part of the changing face of downtown Dallas," Mr. Crawford said. "People are looking downtown who never thought about looking before."

Tenet – which is now located just north of the Galleria complex at 13737 Noel Road – operates more than 50 hospitals in 12 states.

The company has more than 62,000 employees and about $8.7 billion in annual revenue.

By Steve Brown

Seib Debuts $150M-Plus Plan for North Oak Cliff


Admitting it's still a "moving target," well-known local banker Dick Seib has his eye on developing a $150-million to $200-million town center in North Oak Cliff. Site work is about to ramp up for the first construction, with the 30-acre tract to be completely scraped in early 2009.
About two years ago, Seib and his family bought three contiguous blocks, including a 6.4-acre parking lot at the city's fabled Bronco Bowl, now gone and backfilled with a Home Depot. The land assembly includes a 68-year-old apartment complex, Colorado Place at 2300 Fort Worth Ave., which is gradually being emptied to make way for the new, La Reunion Town Center.

Seib tells GlobeSt.com that construction financing is in place for the entire project. Ground will break on the parking lot site in 60 days for a 198-unit seniors' housing project, the Fairways at La Reunion, with completion coming five months later. Next, the demo crew will begin to raze the 28-building complex with 342 units.

If all goes as planned, Seib says La Reunion Town Center will be under construction by midyear. Construction is expected to take 14 to 16 months to complete. The first phase will have 300 rental units above 80,000 sf of retail. Subsequent phases will add 220 rental units, 70,000 sf of retail, a 30,000-sf theater and 96 townhouses. Seib has mapped out a five-year build-out plan.

"Our objective is to build a town center that is really a town center, the stereotypical live, work, play environment," Seib says, "that certainly is compatible and desirable for residents and ends up being a place for the community to see and be seen." His vision is La Reunion Town Center will be the beginning point on its side of the Trinity River for the hike-and-bike Katy Trail. Seib's project is part of the fuel for massive redevelopment of Oak Cliff.

NCA Architecture Inc. of Dallas designed La Reunion Town Center for Seib, whose infill development has a hilltop vantage point with views of Downtown Dallas and is three miles west of the inner urban core. A piece of the site abuts Stevens Park Golf Course. The residential component will be one- and two-bedroom apartments and townhouses. Galaxy Builders Ltd. of San Antonio is the general contractor. Jimmy Pham and Kent Arnold, both associates with Dallas-based Henry S. Miller Commercial Co., are preleasing the retail space, focusing on service-oriented businesses. The quoted rate is $27 per sf to $35 per sf, triple net on an annual basis.

"We have a few LOIs," Pham says. "We've been able to drum up a lot of interest of late." La Reunion Town Center's first ICSC showing will be October at the Southwest conference in San Antonio.

Seib says the original intent was to act as the project's equity partner. "In this case, we ended up in the role of developer because that's how it meandered," he confides. With financing locked in at a fixed rate, he says it's time to get started, but he's not ruling out a joint venture partner down the road.

The long-time resident of nearby Kessler Park and seniors' housing developer says it was by chance not design that he's now going to build in his backyard. "It wasn't necessarily protectionism, but it was recognition that perhaps we weren't seeing the forest for the trees," he says. "It has become a rapidly escalating area in prices and demand. This is a catalyst property that will really dictate the quality for the Fort Worth Avenue corridor."

Friday, August 01, 2008

Knoll moving into downtown Dallas' Arts District


An international furniture and fabrics firm is relocating its Dallas showroom to downtown’s Arts District.

Knoll Inc. is moving its local operations from Oak Lawn Avenue in the Design District to the One Arts Plaza tower on Routh Street.

The Pennsylvania-based company is leasing 10,000-square-feet on the ground floor of the 24-story building for its new showroom which will open in January.

The $150 million building includes retail, office and condominium space. Major office tenants in the project include 7-Eleven Inc. and law firm Thompson & Knight.

“Knoll is the leading contract furniture design company in the world; to have them move their regional office to One Arts Plaza is a great complement to the integrity of our own design,” developer Lucy Billingsley said in a statement.

Two additional towers are planned in the Arts Plaza project, which is at the east end of Flora Street.

By Steve Brown

Healthcare REIT Puts Up $59M Plus for Pyramids


DALLAS-Putting $59.2 million on the line, Healthcare Realty Trust has acquired the Pyramids at Park Lane, two class A office towers with 291,389 sf parked right beside its 250,000-sf North Central Medical Center. Both office footprints have Baylor Health Care System on the tenant roster.
The Nashville-based REIT closed the deal with Goddard Investment Group LLC of Atlanta in recent days, allowing the one-year owner to cross off another piece of Dallas real estate on its "to go" list. The Pyramids, positioned on 6.6 acres at 9101 and 9201 N. Central Expwy., came to market in May with two other class A office properties, with more than one million sf, in an opportunistic move to take advantage of value-add capital looking for landing spots, according to a previous interview with the seller.

Healthcare Realty didn't return telephone calls to comment on the deal, which surfaced two days ago in an SEC filing. The seller indicated it was unable to comment and its sales team confined comments to a press release that was issued late last night. The Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP team consisted of senior managing director Andrew S. Levy, director Todd W. Savage, director John Bourret and analyst Kelsey Roop.

Seller financing at a fixed-rate interest and 70% LTV cap was an option of the offering, but it couldn't be determined by deadline if the REIT leveraged the 98%-leased Pyramids' purchase in any way. The lease stack has Baylor in 95,000 sf until June 2020 of the 145,963-sf south tower and the Dallas Plastic Surgery Institute in 33,664 sf through June 2023, with the multi-tenant balance mostly filled by medical tenants. The Pyramids' 145,426-sf north tower is fully occupied by XO Communications Inc., with a lease that expires in July 2010.
According to the buyer's SEC filing, XO Communications plans to vacate the complex when its lease expires that, if it happens, will set up the value-add for the acquisition story. HFF's marketing flyer reported XO's lease is about $10 per sf below current class A rates in the tony mixed-use corridor, where class A office space is commanding $26.60 per sf on average. Capstar Commercial Real Estate Services in Dallas has been leasing the Pyramids.

Developed in 1999 by Dallas-based Champion Partners, the Pyramids complex sits at the epicenter of one of the state's largest medical districts in an infill location adjacent to NorthPark Center, one of the Southwest's top-ranked malls. Close by is the 866-bed Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and 660-bed Medical City Hospital. The Pyramids' northern line abuts the buyer's 97%-leased North Central Medical Plaza, which it bought in April 2006. Assessed at $51 million by Dallas County, the abutting 13-acre campus holds the 110,000-sf Carrell Clinic Center and a 140,000-sf, six-story multi-tenant, medical office building, with its halls filled by more affiliates of the locally based healthcare provider.

HFF characterizes the Pyramids as two of the newest office buildings in the North Central Expressway corridor, with 12 competing buildings and all more than 90% leased. The complex includes a six-story garage with 977 spaces and another 150 of surface spots. The acquisition bumps the REIT's holdings to more than two million sf in Dallas/Fort Worth.